Contrary to its title, there is not a whole lot of woman-chasing in Robinson Devor’s debut feature, “The Woman Chaser.” And that’s more or less the organizing principle of Devor’s work, if not Devor himself. He sets out to present the obvious with documentarian accuracy, then steadily lets preconceptions crack and melt out of shape, evolving into something else.
The result in “Chaser” is repellent behavior wrought luridly fascinating, sometimes even downright funny.
Devor almost gave up the business in the early ’90s. Frustrated, he moved to Africa to head a start-up agribusiness company with a friend, but he soon found he was a Hollywood lifer.
“We had this house in Zambia,” Devor explains, “Hyenas running about, leopards pulling things into trees. But all I could think about was Los Angeles. It was sick.”
Devor spent his early filmmaking days on docu “Angelyne,” a peek into the life of the buxom Hollywood billboard-celeb. PBS picked it up, and it won acclaim.
“The Woman Chaser,” based on a novel by Charles Willeford, is about a used car salesman whose sociopathic tendencies and visions of artistic grandeur as a director cut a swath of devastation through Hollywood.
“He has an incredible way of justifying his actions. He thinks he’s helping people when he’s destroying them,” says Devor.
He shot “Chaser” in B&W, and has a keen eye for finding remnants of original 1950s Hollywood. When put to celluloid, “Chaser” believably transports you back to a time of lime gimlets and gadgets that end with the suffix “o-matic.”
“It’s easy to be seduced by that noir-ish look,” explains Devor, “but it’s (Willeford’s) dialogue that achieves that feel. Willeford can make you laugh out loud with a poker faced tone.”
Patrick Warburton (widely known for playing Elaine’s boyfriend on “Seinfeld” for two seasons) portrays the used car salesman Richard Hudson. A talented actor with Gregory Peck’s – hardly! kl good looks, he owns the role of the tough but somewhat dim straightman whose lack of mental acuity is second only to a regal sense of self-importance.
Devor’s next script promises the same sabotage of normality: It follows the true story of a 40-ish British journalist in America and her brief weeklong fling and road trip with a man 15 years her junior. “After it was over, she learned that this guy was one of the biggest mass murderers in the country,” enthuses Devor, “He’d killed someone every eight days at the time, and she’d totally fit the profile of a target.”
Devor readily admits “nothing’s more stale than a serial killer script” and plans to train his eye instead on each character’s different thoughts during that amorous week — and why the woman didn’t wind up a corpse.
“I’ve been on the periphery of this town for years. I don’t want to have to take another three years to get a movie made,” Devor says grimly joking, “but I’m willing to do it.”